(Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 inched up on Wednesday as tobacco stocks gained on U.S. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s departure and DS Smith rose after selling its plastics division, while Legal & General slipped after results.
The FTSE 100 gained for the fourth straight session and closed 0.2 percent higher, while the FTSE 250 was 0.4 percent lower as a weaker pound weighed.
British American Tobacco advanced 5.2 percent to a near four-month high and Imperial Brands rose 1.3 percent after U.S. FDA Commissioner Gottlieb, who strove to curb use of flavoured e-cigarettes, said he would step down next month.
Packaging firm DS Smith added 3.7 percent after agreeing to sell its plastics division to private equity firm Olympus Partners for an enterprise value of $585 million.
Dollar earners also provided some support as sterling came under pressure after talks between Prime Minister Theresa May’s attorney general and European Union negotiators over concessions on Brexit ended without an agreement. An EU official said the talks did not go well.
The weakness in sterling hit the domestically-focussed FTSE 250, with financial and real estate stocks dragging the most.
Downbeat sentiment was compounded by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation & Development cutting global economic growth forecasts and flagging Brexit worries as one of the major factors contributing to the slowdown.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said the recent rebound in stock markets appeared to be becoming “a little bit stuck in the mud”.
Luxury clothing company Burberry offset gains on the main bourse, falling 4 percent after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to “sell” from “neutral”.
Life insurer Legal & General gave up 3.5 percent on its worst day this year after its 2018 results, with Jefferies analysts pointing to a “bulky margin miss”.
On the mid-cap index, Just Eat dropped as much as 5.4 percent but pared most losses to close marginally lower.
Investors seemed to warm to the online takeaway service’s assertion that it could see off the threat from rivals Uber Eats and Deliveroo, and that its own delivery service would become profitable after investment peaks this year.
Serviced office space provider IWG also erased losses and ended the day 3.2 percent higher. It had earlier said it would close or refurbish some locations in certain markets and posted annual results.
Defence contractor Ultra Electronics outperformed the mid-caps. Shares surged 12.2 percent on their best day in more than a year as the company bulked up its order book.
“Though the markets had plenty of reason to despair on Wednesday, they instead settled for something altogether blander and more subdued,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
Tobacco firms since Scott Gottlieb's appointment as U.S. FDA chief - tmsnrt.rs/2UlzWQN
Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Andrew Heavens and Toby Davis